Response to Article About Evangelion (or, proof that I am a dork)

10 01 2009
(Hey. You. Don’t read this blog entry. Read the previous one about the Relevant article on Universalism. Then come back and read this one. Actually don’t. Only if you’re a dork like me and have seen the Neon Genesis Evangelion anime (wouldn’t want to spoil the ending[s] if you haven’t seen it yet, unless you want to have it spoiled). Okay then.)

So, the anime series Evangelion originally had its TV series ending, which was episodes 25 and 26 of the show. Fans were very angry about said ending for various reasons, so eventually the shows creators made a new one (a movie) called “End of Evangelion.” This dude wrote an article around 8 years ago about why the movie ending is “vastly superior” to the original one (found here) . Besides the numerous typographical errors (which I suppose I can’t fault him too much for, I’m sure I make enough of my own), he says a bunch of other stuff that really bothers me, so I decided to write a response of sorts. His stuff is in the block quotes, my responses follow each quote.

Certainly a point that can be used to split the fanbase is this issue. Which ending is better, the series or the movie? I’m surprised that not only therer are people that prefer the series ending, but people out there who actually enjoy the series’ final 2 episodes as an ending, period. Yeah, take a guess at which side of the issue I’m on.

Starting out by insulting the intelligence of those who disagree with you. Cool.

As someone who knew the series ending would be ‘out there’ purely from reputation long before I saw Evangelion, I certainly can’t relate to those who saw it unspoiled, or even worse those who watched the show on its original run. As much as I hate the TV ending, I’d probably dislike it even more if I was in that situation. Thus, I can’t say the TV ending surprised me. It was a rather well known fact in April, 2001 when I saw the ending for the first time that it was so bad that it spawned a well known film.

I agree with him on this to some degree. If I hadn’t known about the (alleged) freakish turn the series took at the end of the series, I would have almost definitely been shocked and probably a little disappointed. I also can’t imagine how shocking it must have been to those who saw it when it first aired. That doesn’t really say anything about the quality of the ending itself, though. Just because it was unexpected and off-kilter doesn’t automatically make it bad, but I suppose he explains why he considers it bad in the following paragraphs, so I’ll shut up now.

How do I begin? The TV ending is flawed at every turn. Start with it technically. Episodes 1-24 were bad enough with the stock footage but it simply goes into overdrive here. They literally drown you with the stuff. I don’t know whats worse, those ridiculous still scenes in the elevator or with Unit 01 holding Kaworu, or these episodes. Its the pure epitome of cheapness and lack of innovation. Pauses and flashing stock footage at the viewer is something a grade school student would do. But someone with as much talent as Anno? Perhaps I’m giving him too much credit.

The first time I saw Evangelion, the still scenes were some of my favorite parts in the series. Whether or not they were intentional or the result of lack of funds didn’t matter to me. I found them to be very tension-building moments that really contributed to the emotional nature of what was going on at those particular moments in the series. I found them to be unique moments that I hadn’t really seen used in any of the anime shows I’d seen before. Whether or not this makes me as unintelligent as a “grade school student” is up for debate, but I felt those moments were quite defining for the series and helped to make it stand out from the rest of the pack of anime out there.

Take, for example, the scene where Unit 01 is holding Kaworu. Kaworu has just told Shinji to kill him, the only person that has made him feel worthwhile and actually seems to like him. The scene cuts to Eva Unit 01 holding Kaworu, with Shinji left inside the mecha to decide what to do: kill what he sees as his only friend or allow him to live, most likely resulting in the destruction of all mankind. All this while an intense classical piece plays (can’t remember which it is at the moment, and I probably wouldn’t know the name even if I did). The fact that the scene freezes upon that image leaves the viewer with nothing to do except feel the tension of the scene and (hopefully) empathize with Shinji’s feelings, imagine all the contradictory thoughts going through his mind, wonder what he’s going to decide, etc.

The fact that the TV Series ending “goes into overdrive” with the stock footage I can’t really disagree with. However, these two episodes are supposed to be the depiction of the Human Instrumentality Project, where the characters’ minds are probed and their psychological issues examined for the purpose of uniting all people into some mass of “oneness” (or something). What else would be in their minds besides “stock footage”? Of course, the show’s creators could have shown stuff about Shinji that no one knew yet, but the footage shown pretty accurately shows Shinji’s messed up mind, and the fact that stock footage is used repeatedly only exemplifies his confusion and inner mental torment (although, I admit, the part of Asuka’s Instrumentality where she is shown repeatedly spouting repeated phrases is a little overdrawn).

Anyway, back to the article…

While I enjoyed the music during the so called ‘weird’ scenes, they tend to use the lesser quality ones too much in these episodes like ‘Introjection’ and ‘Ambivalence’. Evangelion’s soundtrack was never steller to begin with, and its unfortunate that they don’t use the opportunity to use tracks like ‘Splitting of the Breast’ or ‘Mother Is the First Other’ a few more times. Contrast this with the movie. Excellent animation. Occasional use of stock footage from the series, as is to be expected in an ending, but unlike the TV ending its not the entire show. As for the music… wow. From ‘Thanatos’ to ‘Komm Susser Todd’ the movie’s soundtrack completely buries the dull monotone themes of the series that do little more than rehash the opening and closing themes. And never underestimate the use of a new ending track for the finale. It was great with ‘Blue’ in Cowboy Bebop and ‘The Story of Escaflowne’ in Escaflowne. In Eva, after the ending, something that I’d like to consider special considering its the finale, all we get is the same old boring ‘Fly Me To the Moon’ garbage. I dispised the song the entire series for the pure laziness of using it. The TV ending keeps the tradition unlike the wonderful movie where we get not one, but 2 seperate themes for the 2 ending credits.

I think I agree with this part. Those two ending songs from the movie are beyond superb (not to mention the wonderful rendering of “Jesus, Joy of Man’s Desiring” on piano [I really want to learn to play that… and the piano in general, but that’s another story]). I don’t think there’s really any way to deny that the music on the movie’s ending is better than the music on the original ending, so I’ll stop there.

I suppose what perfectly defines the pond scum that the TV ending is the resolution factor. Evangelion has a million questions presented in the first 24 episodes. What are the Angels? Where do they come from? Whats Adam? If its not the giant on the cross, than what happened to it? Whats Lillith? How is she relevent? What is SEELE’s true objectives? Why are they in such conflict with Gendou? Whats the truth behind the Eva’s? Whats Third Impact? And so on… And its not just unanswered questions. As episode 24 ended each and every character needed resolution except for poor Kaji, who was dispatched a few episodes earlier (the identity of his shooter is yet another mystery presented…) So, we finally get the ending in the final 2 episodes. And what do we get? All the answers? Half the answers? A quarter of the answers? A few answers? Maybe just one? Nope. Squat. Zilch. Nada. Everything in the series is dumped like a bad date. Angels? Who cared. Third Impact? We may have mentioned that a million times but we’ll just leave it unresolved. Eva Series? Bah, forget that was mentioned in practically every episode of the second half. Resolution is important. Without resolution something rightfully can’t be called an ending. And in the TV ending of Eva we get no resolution. We get Shinji thinking about how he should act. Nothing else. Of course supporters of the TV ending would say that none of that stuff ever mattered, only Shinji did. Bullshit! If this was a series purely about psychological studies of teenage boys, thats all we’d get. There wouldn’t be mechas. There wouldn’t be hot anime babes. There wouldn’t be religious symbolism and discussions about Third Impacts and Eva Series. Oppose this to the movie. All the resolution you could need. Third Impact, Eva Series, SEELE, Lillith, Adam, etc… are all given good resolution. Rather than just lazily flash us with shots of dead characters since we’re too lazy to do anything with them, we get proper ends to Ritsuko and Misato. And a much better final scene. Endless ‘congradulations’ or Asuka and Shinji alone in a wasteland. No, I’m not a guy who wants Asuka and Shinji together, but Asuka complaining to me for a minute is a hell of a lot better than a minute of ‘Congradulations’ repeated over and over again.

Alright, first of all, I don’t know what the writer thinks is normally associated with the psyche of teenage anime boys, but I’m pretty sure “hot anime babes” and mecha would definitely be huge parts of it (was he ever a teenage boy himself, I wonder…). While all the other technical “stuff” that happened in the series was important in furthering the plot, Shinji was the central focus throughout it all (and as far as I know, a reflection of creator Hideaki Anno himself). The story was primarily about the insecurities and psychological issues of the characters, especially Shinji. So, the creators could end the show with a half-hearted plot-fulfilling two episodes so everyone could “find out what happens,” somehow attempt to show both plot and the psychological conclusion, or go into an in-depth examination of the main character’s psyche and the Human Instrumentality Project’s effect on him. Considering the time constraints and financial issues surrounding the creation of the original TV series, I believe that what they did was the best possible option. Whether they created said ending while drunk and overtired (which I’ve heard reported somewhere) doesn’t really change the fact that the series’ original ending did offer closure to Shinji’s ever-insecure mental state of being. The flashing of the dead characters at the end isn’t necessarily because of laziness. Those shots correspond completely with the movie ending (as does Asuka underwater in Unit 02). The only reason (I believe) that these scenes weren’t expounded on more was because there wasn’t enough time and the creators probably wished to provide some sort of closure for those particular characters. After all, what was really most important was what became of Shinji and what he decided to do about his self-perception. Also, this decision is what the fate of the entire Earth hangs upon in the “End of Evangelion” movie, so to say that Shinji’s feelings weren’t completely important is bull, in my opinion. He was the deciding factor in allowing humanity to survive even with pain, instead of some fake reality where everyone is the same and united in some sort of soul glob. Shinji himself was the catalyst that led to the outcome of the entire series in both endings, not just the television one. Hideaki Anno himself implies that the show is centered around Shinji (see here [and this was asked before the start of the series]). I’ll admit that the “Congradulations” (sic) at the end were a little surreal, but the fact that Shinji was able to accept himself as he is was incredibly significant considering all he’d been through throughout the series. Which brings us to the next part…

Another thing I couldn’t stand about the TV ending is the final message. Shinji has worth as a person and doesn’t need the mecha to find happiness. Hello!?!?!? Anno, where you watching the same series as I was during the first 24 episodes? If anything, episodes 1-24 prove without a shadow of a doubt that Shinji is a worthless individual that gets all his success and happiness from the Eva. Lets list them. Shinji gets to be with his father again because of the Eva. Shinji gets that all important congradulations from his father because of the Eva. Shinji makes friends with Touji and Kensuke because of the Eva. Shinji gets to live with a babe like Misato because of the Eva. Shinji no longer has a boring life with his teacher because of the Eva. Shinji meets the person he loves more than anything else, because of the Eva.

Just because Shinji has good things happen to him because of the Eva, does not mean that it has to be his ultimate source of happiness. Shinji is not worthless because he doesn’t have the Eva to give him worth, he’s worthless (if anyone can truly be called that) because that’s how he perceives himself. Even when he gets all of this awesome stuff, he still sees himself as worthless when anything goes wrong or he fails. The change didn’t need to come from his circumstances, but from how he perceived himself as a human being. What happens during the Instrumentality Project is the culmination of all the emotions and insecurity that Shinji felt throughout the first 24 episodes of the series.

Shinji is always portrayed as a pathetic person without the Eva. Look at episode 4. Shinji sleeping in the movie theater like a homeless person or sitting on the subway forever because he runs from the Eva. Then we reach the ending. And what does that tell us? That Shinji does have worth! That the mecha isn’t important! Well if that was the case, then why the hell did you contradict it in every single one of the first 24 episodes!??!?

Are you kidding me? Shinji was the one who thought his only source of worth was the Eva. It’s not like a narrator announced throughout the show that “Shinji Ikari is worthless without the Eva. Just look at the poor bastard!” When he was in the movie theater, he saw a young couple making out and sat there insecure and most likely feeling sorry for himself. This probably only added to his self-hatred after having been emotionally torn apart from his experiences in the Eva. It’s not like the creators wanted us to see Shinji as worthless, he was the one who wrongfully thought so.

Okay, now that I’ve beat that topic into the ground, I’ll finish this up.

Now the movie certainly doesn’t portray Shinji in a good light, with him masturbating in front of Asuka or being pulled around like a baby by Misato. But atleast he’s in character in the movie. He’s not running around being congradulated for nonscensical reasons.

What? What’s your point? He’s in character in both of the endings. He makes the same choice both times. He chooses to live his life in reality, regardless of how much pain that brings him. He’s congratulated because he’s able to accept himself as a person. Even though the movie ends on a more depressing note, the message is still the same. Shinji has decided to face and accept the world as it is, and he has learned to accept himself as well.

Two endings versus each other. One is End of Evangelion. A great movie that resolves the TV series nearly flawlessly while also providing great animation and intriguing music. Personally one of my favorite anime movies. The other is the TV ending. A pure example of why Anno can’t get it done when it comes to crunch time. Folding completely under pressure. Excuses don’t cut it with me. Worst anime ending in the history of the medium in my opinion. Argument over.

Wow. “Argument over.” I guess I lose. Oh well.

Personally, I’m not sure which ending I like better (for a while, it was the original one, but the last time I watched the series, which was in November and December, I think I liked the movie one better), and I was not trying to argue that the television ending is unequivocally better in all ways (as the writer does for the movie), only that it has its merits as well as the movie ending. To call it the “[w]orst anime ending in the history of the medium” is absurdly harsh. But, hey, to each his own, I guess.

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